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ORC's Professor Sir David Payne wins Future Prize for his research in optical fiber technology

Date Announced: 16 Jun 2021

Pictured: Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis winner Professor Sir David Payne.

ORC, Southampton, UK -- One of the world's leading experts in optical fiber technology from the University of Southampton is the eighth recipient of the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis awarded by the German foundation Berthold Leibinger Stiftung.

A jury of renowned international experts and industry leaders has recognised Professor Sir David Payne's work on the erbium-doped fiber amplifier (EDFA), high power fiber lasers, and his pioneering research in fibre optics technology. Originally due in 2020, the award ceremony has been rescheduled to take place on September 24, 2021. 

Since the 1970s, Sir David’s work has spanned many diverse areas of photonics, from telecommunications and optical sensors to nano-photonics and optical materials. With his colleagues at the University of Southampton's world renowned Optoelectronics Research Centre he has made many of the key technical achievements in almost every area of optical fiber technologies and his work has had a direct impact on worldwide telecommunications, as well as nearly all fields of optical R&D; most notably, the erbium-doped fiber amplifier in telecommunications and high-power fiber lasers in material processing and manufacturing.

The common component of these two tremendously important and successful industrial devices is the low-density rare-earth doping of silica fibers allowing for the efficient generation and amplification of light inside a fiber.

The publication of Sir David's Southampton group on low-loss erbium-doped optical fibres in 1985 sparked a development that led to the first employment of EDFA devices in an undersea trans-pacific cable within less than ten years and the advent of kilowatt fiber lasers in the 2004.

No EDFA, no global internet

In the early days of fiber-optic network deployment, the common measure of capacity was the number of phone calls carried on a single fiber, with impressive numbers ranging high in the hundreds of thousands.

The internet and digitisation of communication changed the notation to gigabits per second ranging from single digit numbers in the 1990s to six-digit numbers today (>100 Terabit/s). The transmission capacity of optical cables is not only far greater than that of copper, but it can also be readily multiplied by using multiple wavelengths – each being a separate channel – in the same fiber, called wavelength multiplexing. These channels can again be multiplied using coherent transmission technology.

All of these techniques rely on EDFA signal amplification in network connections greater than 100 kilometers. In simple terms, EDFAs drastically reduce the cost of bandwidth as they eliminate the need to deploy additional cables, making data connections affordable for today's data driven world.

The Berthold Leibinger Stiftung is proud to present Professor Sir David Payne with the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis adding an esteemed prize to a highly decorated researcher who has also initiated and sparked commercialization by founding a number of start-ups. He is also well known for collaborations with well-established tech-companies.

Professor Sir David Payne commented, “I note that the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis is an international award for excellent research on the application or generation of laser light. The Optoelectronics Research Centre that I have the honour to lead shares that exciting mission.

“I am therefore greatly honored to receive this highly prestigious recognition of my research work and that of the extraordinary colleagues with whom I have had the pleasure of working over the years. This prize is for them too. I will be joining an August cohort of previous Leibinger prize winners that reads like a who's who of laser pioneers and that makes me very proud.”


Optoelectronics Research Centre, 
University of Southampton, 
Highfield Campus, 
SO17 1BJ 
United Kingdom 
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 4521

E-mail: light@orc.soton.ac.uk

Web Site: www.orc.soton.ac.uk

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